BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Dorothy Rabinowitz, where did you get the title, "No Crueler Tyrannies"?
DOROTHY RABINOWITZ (Author, "No Crueler Tyrannies"): From Montesquieu, the philosopher, by way of my very enterprising editor at Simon & Schuster. And I thought it served very well - no crueler tyrannies than those that are perpetrated under the shield of law and in the name of justice. A perfect title.
LAMB: Why the book? You`ve written a lot about this in "The Wall Street Journal."
RABINOWITZ: A lot, and mostly because I came to "The Journal" on the wings of one case like this. And I had an editor-in-chief at "The Journal," Bob Bartley, who instantly recognized the importance of this event that was taking place, this sweep of false accusations of child sex abuse. And he recognized that there was a larger issue here called prosecutorial zealots -- that is, runaway prosecutors who, quite simply, in many cases don`t care. They don`t really care if you`re guilty or you`re not guilty and who`ll never give up the conviction. And all of that -- runaway prosecutorial zealots combined with the pathos of the cases of American citizens, most of them -- almost all of them -- middle-class, lower middle-class people who got up and saluted the flag and were genuinely kind of believers in our society and believed in law and believed that if you are falsely accused of something, our system of justice is there for you and you will be rescued. Someone will come forward.
In every case I wrote about, these citizens said, It`s a mistake. Someone will come forward. And they believed it to the end.
LAMB: Before we start on any of the cases, maybe 15 seconds on each one. I mean -- then we`ll come back to it. The Amiraults -- who were they?
RABINOWITZ: The Amiraults. They were caught up at the height of -- in 1984, which may seem like a long time ago to people, but it really wasn`t. In 1984, 1983, 1982 began a great, great sweep, a tidal wave of false mass abuse -- that is, 20 school teachers accused. There was the famous McMartin case in California. Well, prosecutors all over America picked up on nursery schools. That was where the great thrust of all of these cases were. Nursery school teachers, child care workers, all of them were somehow accused of being a part of child molestation rings, for heaven knows what ends.
And there was something called the National Child Abuse Act. So the government poured money into agencies that went out to look for child abuse. If you pour money in, you`re going to find child abuse. They`d created jobs for workers to go out and find child abuse.
Anyway, the Amiraults -- an Italian-American family run by a woman who had been on Welfare, Violet Amirault, pulled herself up, clawed herself up into this marvelous position, brought up two children alone -- very successful child agency. And people relished getting their children in there. Suddenly, one day, there was an anonymous phone call. It was Labor Day, 1984. She was advised that her son, Gerald, her adult son, had been accused of molesting a child.
In 1984 -- and indeed, in some places still now -- you don`t need any more than an accusation. Gerald was immediately taken away two days later to prison. They got him out on bail. No one confirmed the accusation. No one did anything. As time went on -- and a pattern was established in all of these cases, and this was typical of the Amiraults. Mrs. Amirault was then in her late 60s. She was then accused. Her adult daughter, Cheryl, she was accused. It was alleged to be a family conspiracy to molest children.
They were arrested. They were convicted in two separate trials. They were given enormous sentences. Gerald Amirault, being the male -- and you have to understand it is the rule in all of these cases that gender matters. If you were the male, you were seen as a major perpetrator, although if you were a lone woman, as Kelly Michaels was, the weight falls on you.
Anyhow, they were sent away to prison. And I began writing about them after Mrs. Amirault and her daughter had both served about six years and Gerald had served eight years. And a couple of months after the first piece hit "The Wall Street Journal," they were -- the women were released on a plea, and Gerald was kept. And there began our fight to free Gerald.
The prosecutors fought and fought and fought to get the women back into prison, and they almost won. But by this time, the publicity that had been generated by the writings about this -- which were taken up later afterwards in "The Boston Globe" and everywhere -- was so great, so enormous, the tidal wave of investigation into what really happened.
Prior to the Amiraults had been my very first encounter with this entire matter. I was working as a television commentator. I was at WWOR-TV in New Jersey, doing three times a week some sort of media criticism. And I looked up at the screen, something like that, and I saw this woman in her 20s, late 20s, rosy, apple cheeks, innocent, accused of something like 2,800 charges of child sex abuse. Oh, I thought, well, that`s very odd. But I didn`t think -- what do I know? I was never interested in work in schools or teachers. It never occurred to me. But something seemed odd about this.
And you know, when you`re a journalist, if there is a story that seems very strange and paradoxical to you, there comes a point when you still get a little click in your head that says, OK, I see how this bizarre thing happened, how it`s possible. I never got this click. I thought, How can one woman, one young, lone woman in an absolutely open place like the child care center of the church in New Jersey that she worked for -- how could she have committed these enormous crimes against 20 children, dressed and undressed them and sent -- you know what it is to dress and undress even one child every day without getting their socks lost? -- 20 children in a perfectly public place, torture them for two years, frighten and terrorize them, and they never went home and told their parents anything? Covered them with peanut butter, it was alleged. And she licked the peanut butter off. Made them eat feces. Made them drink urine. Terrorized them. This did seem strange.
LAMB: What was her name?
RABINOWITZ: Kelly Michaels, Margaret Kelly Michaels.
LAMB: Where is she today?
RABINOWITZ: Margaret Kelly Michaels -- we did get her out, and she won on her first appeal, and today she lives with her four children and has just delivered a fifth child with her husband, former prosecutor, one of the few people that I wrote about who has put her life together in so healthful a way and without being haunted. Because once you endure false imprisonment of this kind -- and remember, there is no one more despised, no one, than the alleged child molester. I mean, the Amirault women, when they were thrown into prison. You could not have imagined people more used to comfort, upright status. They were church goers -- be thrown into a prison on a dirty mattress while they waited, being moved to their cell to have people spit at them, call them child abusers. These people were invariably thrown into isolation cells for their own protection.
LAMB: I want to come back to that. I want to just get a little bit on each one of these people. Grant Snowden?
RABINOWITZ: Grant Snowden. As they would say in one of our local papers, hero police officer, which he was, Miami police officer. Wanted all of his life to be in police, finally made it, though he was short, too short. He stretched himself. Accused, because he had a quarrel with a fellow police officer, of sodomizing a child. It was such an absurd contention on the face of it that even a Miami jury -- and this was all in 1980s, the early `80s -- they refused to convict him.
But here`s the other aspect of these things. Prosecutors will not accept, even when a jury says no. They came back with newer charges and newer victims. And the victims got younger and younger because you can inform little children with a lot more persuasive memories of abuse that never took place than older ones. Ultimately, he got six life terms, and he is now out.
LAMB: Patrick Griffin.
RABINOWITZ: Patrick Griffin. Patrick Griffin was a much-loved physician in Manhattan. Some of this doesn`t bear telling, just because of its stomach-turning aspects. But Patrick Griffin was accused by a patient who was angry at him for not helping her with her phony lawsuit against some institution, of sodomizing her while he was performing a colonoscopy on her. And anybody who knows anything about a colonoscopy knows that the nature of what goes on -- remarkably revolting things happen. And the idea that this man committed oral sodomy on her...
In any event, Patrick Griffin was convicted, and by the marvelous talents of his appellate lawyer, he was able to prevail. They had a second trial. Anybody who ever gets to a second trial is in grave danger because the statistics will tell you a jury is going to convict you something like 60 percent of all people who go back, but not in this case. It was something too grotesque. All of these people I`m telling you about are haunted by all of this.
And then there were the people in Wenatchee, Washington, where there was a wholesale pursuit by one lone detective who decided he knew what child abuse was. Now, this was in the `90s, so it`s sort of extended. And he became the hero of the small town of Wenatchee, Washington. And most of the people he picked up were Welfare clients, people on Welfare who knew nothing, who had poor lawyers, no lawyers. And they were all supposed to be part of a sex ring where people climbed in and out of a church.
Every one of the stories that I am telling you about was brought on convictions that no sane jury would have credited, on evidence that was simply incredible to behold. They were all the same kinds of pieces of evidence because in all of these cases, the prosecutors had an interconnected link of intelligence -- the same charges in every case. They had clowns, bad people dressed in costumes, children were made to watch animal sacrifices. I ask you in how many places...
So it was nonetheless the case that the prosecutors in every case said, This case is different. It`s not like these other cases. In every case, all the evidence was the same. That`s because -- I have to stress this -- they had expert witnesses, and the expert witnesses would travel from trial to trial to serve the prosecutors. And they all came up with the same list of charges.
Now, you can ask yourself why did the jury believe these things? How could the jury believe that, as in the Amirault case, old Mrs. Amirault, one of the most upright of citizens, had suddenly turned at the age of 67 into a child molester who raped children? She was accused and convicted of inserting a stick into the body orifice of a little boy, tied him to a tree stark naked in front of everyone, in front of the house in Massachusetts, and the children all attested to this, the ones that were part of the case. Now, who would believe this?
But if you have a prosecutor who tells the jury, Here are all of these brave children. These brave children have come forward to ask that you credit their story because they have endured so much suffering, and if you don`t do this, you`re betraying the children -- it is not easy to find a jury that is stalwart enough to say, Hey, you know, this really is a pile of nonsense.
LAMB: John Carroll.
RABINOWITZ: John Carroll, upstate New York, owner of a boat marina, who simply had no school business or nothing, your wife mad at you, a woman who is angry at you, a separated wife, and also the sense of rumor -- the case you speak of now, John Carroll, is the kind of case that is much more often now heard. You`re not going to find, because of all that we know now -- you`re not going to find people in schools being walked out en mass, the way they did in the `80s, and chained together. You`re going to find husbands angry at wives, wives angry at husbands, bitter divorce cases in which the most powerful weapon is child sex abuse.
That was never true before the 1980s. Now it is the weapon of choice, and anybody can be accused. And in this case, Mr. Carroll was convicted. The evidence was grotesque -- two detectives who appeared on the stand to testify that they could tell from his body language that he was guilty. What was the body language these two detectives knew? Well, he held his legs like this, and he moved forward. It meant he was looking at the door. All of this impressed the jury in upstate New York. The same prosecutor`s witness that testified in the `80s to the Kelly Michaels case, her theory being that, as a child says, No, no, no, nothing ever happened, was the absolute proof that something did happen. And the jurors bought that. She was here to say that roughly in the same way again.
How is it, you could ask, that prosecutors could pick for their expert witnesses so discredited an expert as this particular one. Eileen Treacy was her name. She had been denounced regularly. People wanted nothing to do with her. Because prosecutors want to win. They call one another up, and they say, Hey, I need an expert witness. Call Treacy. We`ll get her for you. That`s the way it works.
What I`m saying is an ugly truth I think most people, I think, apprehend. Prosecutors have among them some -- many honest people who know the meaning of their -- the integrity and uphold their -- but others, many others, simply want to win their cases and will go down to their last breath, when someone has been acquitted, saying, He`s guilty.
When Dr. Griffin was acquitted by the second jury trial, and the judge in the case said to his attorney, Why did you even ask for a jury? I would have had this man acquitted in two minutes at a benching. Prosecutor in New York, in the Manhattan district attorney`s famous sex abuse unit, called me the next day after I wrote the piece about him and said, He`s as guilty as sin. There has to be something in the capacity of -- in the mental capacities of prosecutors who know, against all of the evidence. They want to hold onto their conviction. And so people are still in prison. Gerald Amirault is still in prison because the state of Massachusetts won`t let him go because the integrity of their case -- he represents their victory.
So you can say, What is one man`s life? He`s been locked up. Everybody else is out. He has been locked up in the state of Massachusetts because the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, one of the most venerable institutions in the United States -- it was formed immediately after the Salem witch trials -- it is that old. Nonetheless, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled that there have been so many appeals in Gerald`s case that time is more important than justice. We have to put an end to this process. This shocked many, many, many people in the legal establishment in Massachusetts.
So there we are.
LAMB: So how do you know -- I mean, what sense do you have that -- as I was reading, I was thinking, Why does Dorothy Rabinowitz write about this? And why are all these other people wrong?
RABINOWITZ: They aren`t all wrong. I knew -- the first that told me what was wrong was -- the Kelly Michaels trial was my first encounter with this in the `80s. The atmosphere was very like the ayatollah`s camp when I raised to the television news editor -- I said, You know, we should do a story on this. There`s something wrong with this case. And here was a wonderful piece by a journalist in the "Village Voice," Debbie Nathan, who also raised questions. The look on the face of the editor was such that I knew you`re not even allowed to raise this. He said, Don`t ever mention this to me again. This is the most hated person in New Jersey. Everywhere in the newsroom I went, I said, You know, there`s something wrong with this story. How dare you? It`s the How dare you? I knew there was something sacrosanct about questioning these charges. This should raise questions.
But how did I know? I didn`t know. I thought, Well, maybe the prosecutor knows what he`s doing. So I asked to meet the prosecutor. Glenn Goldberg was his name. And he was happy to meet with me. Why? Because I was no liberal person. I was a grown-up woman with a fairly conservative writing credentials. And he told me how much evidence he had against her. It was nonsense. He followed me down the stairs after I raised the questions and he said, By the way, now I`m going to tell you the real evidence I have against her. What was that, sir? He said, She didn`t wear underpants under her jeans. Imagine. I said, And what did that mean? He said, Don`t you know? That was the kind of evidence.
LAMB: How did he know?
RABINOWITZ: They arrested her, and I guess they found out. But the other thing was, they sealed the transcript. What are they hiding when they seal a transcript? "The New York Times" went and asked, in a desultory kind of way, "The New York Times" and a couple of other papers went to court to open the record. And they said no. I found my way to the record. I got somebody to open it for me. And that`s when I knew. I read the testimony. I read the entire children`s testimony and the interviews. I saw what the jurors did not see. And here`s what I saw.
The children are interviewed. They`re 5. They`re 4. They`re frightened. They want to please this adult sitting in front of them, and they don`t know what they`re there for. But the adult is suddenly showing them a big doll, and the doll has what is called sexual organs, sexually explicit organs. And the interviewer is very persistent and very nice and says to the child, Do you want to help? Your little friends helped. Do you want to tell us if something bad happened? What, said the children. Well, you know something bad happened. And the child doesn`t know.
LAMB: Are they doing this, by the way, alone, just the two of them?
RABINOWITZ: Just the two of them.
LAMB: So is there...
LAMB: ... a transcript being created?
RABINOWITZ: That`s right. You see, they`re so certain of their virtue and the rectitude of their cause that they let the tape recorders take this down. And they learned better later. They stopped recording these interviews. And they would hold up a spoon, say, Show us where Kelly molested you, did something bad to you? The child has no idea what`s going on, but the child takes the spoon and hits the doll here. Where else? Child hits the shoulder. Where else? Because it`s very clear to the child by now that her answers are insufficient. She`s not giving the questioner what they want. There are "where elses" and "where elses" and "where elses" until the child comes to the sex organ, hits the sex organ with the spoon. All the questions stop. Now more "where elses." The questioner has got what she wanted and what he wanted.
What`s presented to the jury is only -- not this odyssey around the doll`s head but only, Rachel showed us where Kelly molested her with the spoon. She touched the genitals. That was the kind of evidence. When you see, I`m saying, in cold print the details of the questioning, then you know. And you can`t miss it.
LAMB: Why is it admissible? Why is that kind of evidence admissible?
RABINOWITZ: Because it was a kind of sacred truth and because this is not hearsay. They produce -- the prosecutors produce testimony from children that they dragged from children after hours of questioning and that is simply distorted.
LAMB: I assume, though, that in many cases, the child`s right.
RABINOWITZ: The child is right?
LAMB: By saying, That`s exactly where I was touched. I mean, in other words, there are cases where there are truly child molesters.
RABINOWITZ: Oh, there are child molesters. There are -- but it doesn`t ever come out like this. When there are real cases of child molestation -- you can take what`s going on with the accusations with the priests, you know, the molestation. That`s going -- that is such a scandal today. I have no doubt that there are a number of priests who are falsely accused, but I have no doubt that when I`m listening to the testimony of these children, now grown up, that these events took place.
And what is the difference? One of the differences is there`s a record these people said something. Even little boys went home and told their mothers, and their mothers went to the priests, and their mothers went to places of officialdom. The other thing is, there is no crazy talk about clowns. There is no talk about bluebirds being slaughtered or being made to drink urine. You didn`t need to fancify any of this. He touched me. He did this. There`s a down-to-earth way of saying this.
So I can vouch for the fact that these stories about the mad clown molesting all of these children -- none of that ever took place.
LAMB: The first year, the very first year, the very first time you looked up on that screen and saw Kelly Michaels was when?
LAMB: What year?
RABINOWITZ: Oh. It was 19 -- I believe it was 1987. I think it was that -- 1987. And it took me two years to write -- to get published the first...
LAMB: Where did you publish the first story?
RABINOWITZ: First piece -- "Harper`s" magazine. Lewis Lapham, the editor-in-chief, took a chance, and very quickly, when everybody else turned it down. And they turned it down for the strangest of reasons. I knew almost every editor at the time, and they were filled with commiseration. They said, Look, but you know, I have a 4-year-old child, or, I just can`t do this. Because it was a piece that didn`t just raise questions about her guilt, it just said this is an innocent person.
You know, when you`ve seen an innocent person, that you know because you`ve seen the record, in prison, it`s a life-altering experience. She was sitting there in solitary for two years...
LAMB: Did you go see her?
RABINOWITZ: Oh, yes. And I almost fainted, and I don`t faint. I went to this -- one of the most secure women`s prisons in New Jersey, and it was a dismal -- and this well-brought-up, highly educated young woman was talking to me about Einstein, and I was about to pass out, looking at where she was. It took a long time, but I did know that if I did not do something about this, life would not really be the same.
LAMB: Were you -- did anger...
RABINOWITZ: Anger was everything.
RABINOWITZ: Anger was everything. Anger and horror, but anger was everything because the evidence was so doubtless, so overwhelming that these children came in knowing absolutely nothing about what they were talking about and were told. These words were put in their mouths. They were told what happened to them, and they were drilled in what happened to them. And when they took the stand, they believed it. And that`s exactly what happened to all of these children.
LAMB: Go back to the Lew Lapham thing, editor of "Harper`s" magazine.
RABINOWITZ: Yes, editor of -- so I went through every editor at "The New Yorker," this and that -- and finally, I said, You know, I`ve written it three times for three different people, and they all in the end back out. Somebody said, Why don`t you try Lewis Lapham? I called him up and...
LAMB: Did you know him?
RABINOWITZ: Vaguely. You know in New York when you write you sort of know everybody. I think I once had met him and he got to the phone and I outlined the story for ten minutes and he said let`s do it. It amazed me. Let`s do it. We then sat down in his office with a couple of his editors and I outlined all of this, and he had, I believe, more response to that story than in many, many decades at Harvard.
LAMB: And that year was `86?
RABINOWITZ: It was published in `90. I spent two years trying to get it published. It was published in April, 1990.
LAMB: And you were working where at the time?
RABINOWITZ: I was then at home. I stopped working on television and I was simply doing book writing, freelance stuff, and I was just about to join the "Journal" but I wrote this before the "Journal." And, with Lapham`s publication of that, we were able to move. We got money. We got a lawyer.
LAMB: We, meaning?
RABINOWITZ: I and - I did. I mean I did and then I got the wonderful lawyer Morton Stavis to read this, who is now deceased, one of the great liberal First Amendment - not First Amendment, civil rights lawyers, and he took some of his students at Yeshiva University and they spent two years putting together her appeal and they won and she was out.
And, I will never forget that day when the appellate judges, you know when you go into argue an appeal this is not like you`re going to get the decision right there, but this was one of those times when the appellate court were virtually telling you that this case is a crock.
But the prosecutors were there and it was very dramatic. The two prosecutors that had brought the grotesque stories about how all the children went home and the evidence like one of the mothers said my child doesn`t eat tuna fish anymore.
This is a really important piece of evidence, and what was that supposed to mean? According to the prosecutors the smell of tuna fish is very like the smell of vaginas. That was the level of evidence.
At the appellate court, we were no longer in the state and the prosecutors - I mean you were no longer at the lower level court and the prosecutors started to say, judge, Your Honor, children don`t lie. We`d heard this 1,000 times before, and the judges looked down and said who are you trying to bamboozle? You call this evidence? So, we knew.
LAMB: How many articles did Lew Lapham publish in "Harper"?
LAMB: One article?
RABINOWITZ: It was one but it was enough. It was enough because it was enough. Everything was laid out. These are not subtle matters. I mean children who are told, children who are disrobed, Kelly sang "Black Magic."
They were given magic juice drinks. You could not hear more fantastic stories and yet in the courtroom when she was on trial, the children wanted to run to her to kiss her. Do you run to kiss someone who has so terrorized you?
LAMB: Let me, before you - let me ask more about the journalism of this because you do tell a story in here where Ed Bradley was sought after in the CBS lunch room.
RABINOWITZ: Yes. Yes.
LAMB: Who by?
RABINOWITZ: Grant Snowden was the Miami police officer. You must understand, and I`m sure you do, that everybody to whom this happened has a family, so it`s not only the accused that`s taken down but everybody around him, all of his children.
Grand Snowden`s grief stricken brothers could not believe that their brothers were going to be sent away -- his brother was going to be sent away for life terms for something they know never happened.
So, he got on a plane and he came to New York, not knowing where he was going and he somehow found his way to the CBS building, carrying a sheath of papers from the trial and all of what he thought would persuade someone.
And, he somehow worked his way into the CBS luncheonette and sort of grabbed Ed Bradley because they always looked on the media. The media actually helped bury the accused but they were also the way out.
You know, as soon as there was an accusation in the early `80s, you did not have reporters going around saying hey maybe this isn`t true. What you had was night after night after night on television about the poor children and the monsters.
Gerald Amirault was considered and Mrs. Amirault were the monsters and the witches and life was transformed. What happened to Gerald is unique in the sense that we live, as they always believed, in a society where justice triumphs.
Even to the end they still believed that something is going to happen. The truth will out and they were right except in Massachusetts. In Massachusetts, as we say, the apples fall up not down.
Every single newspaper in Massachusetts, but one, every important legal establishment in force has virtually said he`s innocent, not just said leave him alone. They said look it`s clear that this is garbage but they wanted to hold onto him.
Gerald Amirault left - was taken to prison when his youngest son had just been born. He just got to know his daughters. He missed their entire growing up but, you know, what is so moving about many of these families, Kelly Michaels` mother, the sacrifices and the way life sort of absorbed this trauma and they lived nevertheless.
They had birthdays. They had - Gerald Amirault`s children wore their confirmation clothes so their father could see them. The girls are now 23, 22, and the son is 18, but he missed everything. He missed every graduation, and as it happened, he was one of those fathers who lived for his children and still does.
LAMB: And you`re absolutely convinced that he`s totally innocent?
RABINOWITZ: Not only I`m convinced, everybody is convinced. Let me tell you the Massachusetts - Governor`s Parole Board of Massachusetts is the toughest parole board in the country. They have reason to be. Tough ex-prosecutors, hard-nosed types, they had a special parole hearing for Gerald, a commutation petition. Unanimously, they declared that he should receive commutation a couple of years ago, about a year and a half ago, two years ago.
The majority of the board then issued a separate opinion that said in essence this case is based on nonsense and there is every reason to believe that this person has been falsely sent away. This was completely unknown in the history of governor`s parole boards and pardons. That`s how much everyone understood about this case, which has been exhaustively looked into.
So, he had one foot in the door and was on his way out. It`s unheard of most - actually unheard of in Massachusetts history that a governor would not listen to the parole board, which they issued a scathing...
LAMB: But let me interrupt, though, because the governor in that case...
LAMB: ...was Jane Swift?
RABINOWITZ: That`s right. Jane Swift, though, Jane Swift was fighting for her political life.
LAMB: She was acting governor?
RABINOWITZ: She was acting governor but she wanted to be
governor-governor. And, Jane Swift who already had a terrible reputation as the governor, was advised by her political advisors it would not be good to allow Gerald Amirault out.
LAMB: Had she had her twins?
RABINOWITZ: She had her twins.
LAMB: And where were we in the year? I mean she was in a primary?
RABINOWITZ: She was in, was it a primary? I think, yes I believe it was a primary. It was just before she had to step down. We got the news a year ago that she was going to do this. She made the decision that she knew more. She had done her own investigation. The Board of Pardons and Paroles had investigated so thoroughly to make absolutely sure they would make no mistake and there was nothing anybody could do.
She overruled because she was in the middle of an election, her own board of pardons, for which she was roundly, you know, attacked and she even - the citizens of Massachusetts even declared, you know, their outrage. But you could do nothing about this now. She put him back in.
LAMB: I want to get the politics straight. Jane Swift then was running against - Mitt Romney was running against her?
RABINOWITZ: No, Mitt Romney was going - Mitt Romney came later. Jane Swift, I forgot whom she was running against, she was running against someone else. She was in a primary.
LAMB: I remember in your book you say something like she was 60 points down.
RABINOWITZ: That`s right. She was 60 points.
LAMB: Even in her own party.
RABINOWITZ: In her own party, she was 60 points down. Everybody knew she was going to lose but she said it had nothing to do with anything. Some weeks, not many, less than a month after she made this political decision she never got to run because Mitt Romney, she had to defer to Mitt Romney because her own party saw her as so weak. So, the whole gesture was for nothing.
LAMB: But she also had the other politician in this thing, Scott Harshbarger.
RABINOWITZ: Scott Harshbarger was the original. He was the - in the 1980s he was the original chief prosecutor. He didn`t actually prosecute at the trial. He then went on to greater things.
He ran on his victory in the Amirault conviction in the `80s. He was advertised as the prosecutor who would put child abusers away. He went on to become attorney general of Massachusetts.
LAMB: He was a Democrat?
RABINOWITZ: He was a Democrat.
LAMB: And Jane Swift was a Republican?
RABINOWITZ: And Scott Harshbarger went on to become president of Common Cause, a good government lobby and has never once yielded his belief. He used to write letters to "The Wall Street Journal" which is not known -- the editorial page which is not known as a left of center place, accusing us because of the things we wrote about this case, of trying to throw child abuse back into the darkness and of protecting child abusers.
I had to ask myself does this person actually believe you can get away with a charge that the editorial page of "The Wall Street Journal" is out to protect child molesters? Why would we be doing that? Well, you can`t change the mind of a determined prosecutor, determined that he will uphold his conviction.
And so, there we are. What is one man`s life? You`re left with a question, one man. You know I was always moved in the way I looked at these people, these families, the anonymous nature of their suffering. Nobody knew the agony of these families.
There are many other kinds of agony in the world but the way they made their lives, the way they sort of held together, the way they went through every disappointment and they also didn`t know how one man sat, who had done nothing wrong in his life, whose life was now confined to this little bed. I went to visit him in prison.
LAMB: Gerald Amirault?
LAMB: What prison?
RABINOWITZ: This was in one of the Boston prisons. I don`t think it was Plymouth. I forgot which one. There were three. He`s now in a better one. But I was allowed to visit his cell.
LAMB: Before you do that, quickly, Violet?
RABINOWITZ: Violet died...
LAMB: Her relationship to Gerald?
RABINOWITZ: She was the adored mother and her daughter Cheryl. She had two grown children and Mrs. Amirault, when she was released and her daughter Cheryl released by a judge who granted the appeal, had to spend the last two years of her life, she spent two years in freedom. She was in her 70s by then and the prosecutor spent all of their energies on this case trying to put them back into prison.
LAMB: Where is Cheryl today?
RABINOWITZ: Cheryl has made her life too. Cheryl is in Boston. Wonderfully enough, the prosecutor when she agreed that Cheryl would not go back to prison, made her sign an unofficial, not a binding statement, that she wouldn`t appear - ever appear on television. Prosecutors are very unnerved at interviews being given by people who are released.
LAMB: How can you do that? How can you...
RABINOWITZ: Well, that was a real question. Boston papers said what is she afraid of? She allowed her - she didn`t want her speaking on television.
When I came to Florida, the day that we knew that we could take Grant Snowden into freedom after the 11 years, he was not going to serve his life term but he did spend 11 years in these rat hole prisons in Florida, the prosecutor who was by then dashed and broken had only one plea to the judge. Your Honor, we would just ask that Mr. Snowden not talk to the television interviewers and the media, and the judge said I don`t think we`re here to cut off people`s First Amendment rights.
In Cheryl`s case in Boston it was another matter. The prosecutor has agreed to let her stay out of prison. Now, you could say gee I wonder why is she allowed to speak to newspapers, but the power of television is so great and it`s so intimate and she did not want this woman, to stand there so obviously innocent, by then everybody knew, to remind everybody of what they`d done.
LAMB: How old would Cheryl be today?
RABINOWITZ: Cheryl is today, she`s in her early 40s.
LAMB: How old is Gerald?
RABINOWITZ: Gerald is about a year or two older. He`s about 44, 45. He compiled a marvelous record going to school in prison. One of the things that has made his life easier, easier, is that everybody in the prison system knew he was innocent. They know.
This is one of the many things I`ve learned about in my involvement with these cases. In prison if someone on the outside, someone in the media, if the media asks questions about your case, they begin to look at you as not some kind of monster and child predator. They begin saying well maybe he`s innocent.
In prison they don`t pretend if they are child abusers that they are innocent. As Gerald and others have often said, there are guys here who really molested children and they don`t pretend otherwise, and that seems to be true.
LAMB: You went to visit him. When was the last time you saw him?
RABINOWITZ: About two years ago. I went in and I saw. There`s a little bunk and on top of him is another bunk and there`s another bunk, and I looked at it. I said how can he live? How can you live in this way? You know and he looked at me with such an odd question in his eyes. He said you know you get a lot of advantages when you`re a prisoner for a long time. I thought, you think this is advantages. Prison so reduces your sense of expectation.
When Grant Snowden in Florida first got word that his wonderful attorney Robert Rosenthal had actually managed to win a habeas corpus thing, you don`t get anything harder than that, and he was going to be out, what the first thing that happened was he was worried. He was worried what would happen to him.
Eleven years in this horrific prison and all you want to do is run your concession candy stand and hold on to your job. He was happy all right. So, the expectations are shut down and you just do what you have to do to survive, guilty or innocent.
But in prison, Kelly Michaels, who came with a lot of education and a lot of spirit and a lot of spunk, she was - actually people spit in her soup and they did all kinds of things you do to child - after a couple of years we thought she should be out in the general prison population while her appeal was being worked on, and she made friends. People understood that there was something that this didn`t happen.
When Cheryl was released, Gerald Amirault`s sister, when the Amirault women were released, Cheryl had to go back to the prison for a minute the very day of their release. The entire woman`s prison population came out to cheer her. These are the same women that had threatened her, spat upon her years earlier when she first came to prison, because they ultimately know that something bad has gone awry and they don`t fool around.
LAMB: Let me ask you about, in part about journalism, but before I get there about yourself.
LAMB: Where do you come from originally?
RABINOWITZ: I came from Queens, New York, and grew up and went to City College at a time when the city colleges in New York were sort of like Harvard in what they offered, and then I went on. I thought I would teach literature. That was a bad mistake. I was not meant to be an academic, and I quickly found that out and then, I began to write.
LAMB: What year would you say you began to write?
RABINOWITZ: I know very well. I never planned to become a writer and that`s always been very helpful if you don`t plan it. I planned to become a teacher. I left graduate school.
I had nothing, no way of earning a living so I thought I would go to work as a social worker in a home for the aged, and I hardly had any idea then that this would give me, this had to be in 19 - hum, middle 1960s, and I wrote a piece about the old people I saw at this home for the aged, and I had no intention.
I just thought I`d take this down. It was so - it just drove me. It was such an impassioned piece, and I was fortunate enough to have it published. To have the first piece you`ve written published is a very good boost. It was published in commentary and it was immediately asked about. The then McMillan Company, which we still had, offered me a book contract, and we were off and running, but I`d never intended it.
And here`s what I learned from that. I often thought if I ever did teach journalism, I`d like to way wait until you have something to say before you decide you`re a writer because then you can transcend everything. If you get mad enough. If you get - or pained enough, you`re moved enough, you`re not going to have inhibitions. You`re going to say I have to tell the story and then I`ll go do something else.
I would not have written any of that. I must - I have no idea how many pieces I`ve written on all these people in the "Journal" and the "Journal" was remarkable in that every quarter of "The Wall Street Journal" supported this.
They allowed me so much space on this but I could not have done it without being impelled by pure rage. Of all of the emotions that you have, pity, it`s not that, and you`re not thinking of the victims. You`re not thinking of poor Gerald or poor friends. That`s behind you. What you`re thinking about is the prosecutor. What you`re thinking about is the totalitarian nature of this enterprise.
Black is white. Two and two equal five. A child says nothing happened to me. That was the most continuous theme, nothing happened, nothing happened, nothing happened, never enough.
LAMB: Well, when they see you coming, the prosecutors, do they say oh, here she comes?
RABINOWITZ: Well, the Amirault`s prosecutor didn`t see me coming because I was pretty new at it. They didn`t know what I`d had to do with the Kelly Michaels` case. They did not know it. They were in another state and I called up and I - you know you`re a journalist.
You have to talk to both sides. You have to talk to the prosecutor, and I called him and he was happy to come to the phone because his experience, Mr. Hardoon, he was the active lead prosecutor his experiences told him that the press was there for him. The press was there to carry his story out.
In the midst of his telling me how successful this prosecution had been, the Amiraults don`t forget had been locked away in prison by the time I got there for many years. It was a dead case. They were dead and buried as far as Boston, Massachusetts was concerned.
I knew about it because I knew all of the cases where families had been slammed in. There were such a bunch of them, and I said to Mr. Hardoon, did it ever occur to you that this case could ever be overturned on appeal? He said never, never happen.
Well, it wasn`t overturned for Gerald but three months later, Cheryl and Violet walked out of prison and I remember by that time everybody knew who I was and what I had to do with these cases, and the press was very generous, the local press, and they all - there were crowds of people from National Public Radio and elsewhere at the courthouse, this wonderful little place in Boston where the judge is going to release the women on appeal, Judge Barton.
And, one young woman, a reporter said to me just tell me how did you know because she already knew? I said what did I have to know? You tell me that this woman, Violet Amirault took a four and a half inch butcher knife and inserted - this is one of the pieces of testimony, inserted it into the anus of a 4-year-old child, left no marks, didn`t hurt the child, but you could do that.
I said what do I have to know? What kind of expertise? All of the charges were like this. There was not a single charge brought against them. They were so fantastic. Cheryl cut off the leg of a squirrel. Stories change from minute to minute with the children.
The children were making the stories up because the interrogators were saying if you don`t help me and tell me, we`re going to be so disappointed. You`re going to betray your little friends. I mean these are literally word for word, and the testimony, none of the jurors ever saw this testimony.
And, I can tell you this, several, three or four years ago in the effort to overthrow finally the Amiraults` conviction which always failed, the court granted a special investigation, a special panel to go over all of the evidence in this case and it brought all the reporters in, and for the first time, the reporters - it`s called a finding of fact here.
The reporters sat listening to the testimony of the children and I heard one of the reporters scream as she heard one of these lurid pieces. Oh, my God, do you hear how - that oh, my God impulse, that reaction was, of course, the reaction that every reporter who finally heard what really was in these interrogations but no one ever heard it.
LAMB: OK, "Harper`s" in 1990. You went to work for "The Wall Street Journal."
RABINOWITZ: I did.
LAMB: Editorial page.
RABINOWITZ: Editorial page.
LAMB: Then all of this has not been done on the front pages or the back pages, in the editorial pages?
RABINOWITZ: The editorial page, right.
LAMB: So what is it you did to convince Bob Bartley, when he was editor of "The Wall Street Journal" that he wanted to put you on his payroll and then let you do this?
RABINOWITZ: Well, nothing to do with this. He had been reading my other political work. I was a media critic and a tough one and one day I just got - and actually, when he called up and said how would you like to come to work for the "Journal," I thought he was talking about Kelly Michaels that had just been published in "Harper`s."
Actually, he hadn`t even read that. It was the other stuff I wrote about and I said fine. But two minutes virtually after I got in to the "Journal," Kelly Michaels was there and I wrote about that and he recognized what I`d done in that case. But it was not until I wrote about Gerald, the Amiraults, and I won`t forget that day, it was in January, 1995 that I first sat down to write about this case, and we were overwhelmed.
And, Bob came out of his office and said to me, this is fantastic. Do another one. And, the publisher, Peter Kahn came down and said I hope you get these people out. Now, mind you, nobody asked me anything. Nobody said how could you write about anything so delicate, and that was actually the beginning. After those first three pieces, a week passed and "The Boston Globe" sent its reporter down.
The most important thing in these cases is that the local papers take up these things and when "The Boston Globe" came down to ask me what I knew and to take this on too, we were up and running. So, after they got what I gave them, they undertook a series of their own and that`s what had the impact.
LAMB: Do you think given what journalism is supposed to be, if you were working for the front of the newspaper that they would have allowed you to have this kind of advocacy?
RABINOWITZ: No, absolutely not. The front of this paper, no. I got tremendous support from the front of the paper but it was the editorial page. They created a unique thing on the editorial page then, which was investigative reporting carried on in the editorial columns. Bob Bartley had himself done pieces of investigation on yellow rain.
And so, I basically had carte blanche to go write, and these pieces were immense. They lasted forever, 80 inches, 60 inches, and it went on for a number of years, and I did my other work there. I was media television writer, and I wrote other editorials in between.
But what really happened, after I wrote the first piece about Gerald, the Amiraults, our readers of which there are very many got really disturbed, and when I say the phone didn`t stop ringing and all they wanted to know was what can we do?
And the same was true actually at "Harper`s" magazine. People had this gut-wrenching feeling when they read this stuff, pouring money in to a fund which we didn`t run but which I had our lawyer. When I say our lawyers, I mean the team of appellate lawyers that I worked with on all of this who are the heroes.
LAMB: So, what do you say to the person listening to this and had read your articles if they can`t get Dorothy Rabinowitz interested they`re out of luck?
RABINOWITZ: Well, that`s what they say but you know what, the press now is a very different press. They ask questions about these kinds of cases now. What I think is different in what I did, because I was able to do it, you know, was to do all of the things like get the lawyers, get the money, do it all, and not just report.
LAMB: Will Gerald Amirault ever get out of jail?
RABINOWITZ: Yes. Yes, he will get out of jail. His next appeal, he comes up for regular parole next September, and I think he will get out. There`s only one problem. There`s a little law in Massachusetts and elsewhere called the sexually dangerous persons. The prosecutor can, even after he`s paroled, decide she`s going to keep him there anyway as a sexually dangerous person. We hope it doesn`t happen. We think she`d like to put it behind her finally but you never know.
LAMB: Here`s the cover of the book and it`s written by Dorothy Rabinowitz. It`s called "No Crueler Tyrannies" published by Wall Street Books through Simon and Schuster. Thank you very much.
RABINOWITZ: Thanks for having me.
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